How to improve your gut health: Avoid this type of exercise for healthy bodily function
Gut health can have a big impact on how the rest of your body operates.
There have been a variety of links made between an imbalanced micro biome (gut bacteria) and chronic illnesses, such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
With increased scientific knowledge humans are starting to understand the vital role that the community of microorganisms which reside within the gastrointestinal tract play – from digestion and immunity to hormonal balance, mental health, controlling inflammation and much more, looking after the gut appears to be the key to good health.
Firstly, everyone knows that regular physical exercise is good for them, but did you know that it’s also good for the gut bacteria?
A recent study showed women with sedentary lifestyles had lower levels of health-promoting bacterial species compared to those who were moderately active.
But nutritional therapist Hannah Braye said at the other end of the spectrum, excess strenuous exercise can also have a negative impact on gut health.
She said this is due to “increased inflammation damaging the gut-lining and bacterial composition”.
There have been a variety of links made between an imbalanced micro biome (gut bacteria) and chronic illnesses, such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease
Hannah added: “This is why many marathon runners often suffer with digestive issues. It’s therefore a good idea to take extra steps to support gut health if you are an endurance athlete.”
The nutritional therapist went on to explain how a particular diet, as well as other lifestyle factors, can have a negative impact on gut health.
High sugar/low fibre diet
The Western diet is typically high in sugars and refined carbohydrates and low in fibre. Studies have shown this combination can significantly deplete the diversity of bacteria within the gut and increase levels of undesirable microorganisms such as yeasts (which feed on sugar).
Hannah said: “Low fibre diets are particularly detrimental, as prebiotic fibres from fruits, vegetables and wholegrains are needed to act as a fuel source for beneficial bacteria in the gut to keep levels healthy. Cutting down on sugary and refined foods and boosting fruit and veg intake is therefore recommended.”
Antibiotics (and other medications)
Antibiotics save millions of lives, however our over reliance upon them has a serious deleterious effect on gut health, said Hannah.
She explained: “Antibiotics work by killing disease causing bacteria in the body. However, they will also deplete many of our beneficial gut bacteria, leading to imbalances.
“Research is showing that even short-term antibiotic treatment is able to shift the composition of gut bacteria into long-term altered states, which may promote the development and aggravation of disease.
“Recently published research also highlighted that is not just antibiotics that are an issue. Many commonly used drugs such as proton pump inhibitors, anti-psychotics, diabetes meds and anti-cancer drugs can also have a negative impact on the microbiome.”
How to improve your gut health: A high sugar diet can play havoc on your gut
Many people don’t realise the extent to which stress plays a major role in digestive issues.
Hannah said: “When a person becomes stressed enough to trigger the ‘fight-or-flight’ response, digestion slows down or even stops so that the body can divert all its energy to facing the perceived threat. This can lead to abdominal pain, bloating and other digestive symptoms.
“In addition, high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol reduce the levels of good bacteria in our gut and can also weaken the gut’s intestinal -lining, meaning we have less protection against invaders and an increased risk of developing food intolerances and other health issues.
“Many people therefore find stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, CBT and taking time for oneself to be beneficial for gut health.”
Historically we would have been exposed to a wide variety of microorganisms on a daily basis from living and working outside and preserving our foods via fermentation, explains Hannah.
She added: “This helps to shape the gut microbiome and provide challenges to the immune system, allowing it to develop. Modern city life, desk jobs, food processing and anti-bacterial cleaning products now mean that many of us are not coming into contact with such an abundance of beneficial microorganisms. Getting out in nature, having a pet, cooking from scratch and not excessively cleaning are therefore all potential ways to improve gut health.”
How to improve your gut health: Stress can have a detrimental effect
We are constantly exposed to an array of pollutants from the environment, for example car fumes, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, nanomaterials, and food additives. Hannah stressed that research is showing that the accumulated exposure to these substances can negatively impact our gut bacteria.
“This creates a vicious cycle as our gut bacteria help us to detoxify these compounds and safely remove them from the body. Low levels of beneficial bacteria can therefore lead to further accumulation of toxins and additional health problems.”
Hannah’s advice is to avoid exercising by busy roads and eating organic can help reduce exposure to pollutants.
Our modern lifestyles can easily sabotage gut health in a variety of ways.
Hannah said: “Taking a good-quality live bacteria supplement, such as Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formula, containing 14 different strains, on a daily basis is a great way to give the gut some extra support and promote good-health. In fact, in the largest study on live bacteria supplements in IBS ever conducted, Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formula was found to significantly decrease abdominal pain and improve quality of life.
“Incredibly, one third (33 per cent) of the 360 patients in the study had a complete resolution of symptoms after four months of supplementation.”